‘You have to convince people to buy your shit’

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STONER MOVIES, zombie classics and cult favourites inspired this pacy and bizarre debut novel. Jugal Mody’Toke makes for an engaging read. The 28-year-old former TEHELKA web editor tells Saim Saeed why breaking the norm to give the reader a trip is an important task at hand for an author.
Jugal Mody, Writer

Edited excerpts from an Interview

Who, or what, inspired you to write Toke?
This giant, all-consuming beast called pop culture. And the cult phenomena in pop culture, primarily stoner movies and other adventure comedies.

Any lessons that should be taken from it? 
I’m hoping the only lesson people learn after they read the last page and shut the book is: “I had so much fun and this is so awesome.”

Who is your favorite character?
I don’t really have a favourite character in the book. I like all of them because they are a tremendously mad bunch, madder when put together in the same plot.

Were there other books that you took inspiration from? 
The coming together of Toke can be credited more to stoner movies and zombie spoofs. However, Will Clarke’s Lord Vishnu’s Love Handles is definitely a book I wish I had written.

What was the most challenging aspect of writing Toke?
The pacing. Maintaining the pace of an adventure while not losing out on the slacking; and all the while managing a large bunch of characters — that part was excitingly challenging.

Toke
Jugal Mody
HarperCollins
224 pp; Rs 160

Given the vast gap in values that you portray between Nikhil and his parents and boss, do you think Toke reflects a shift in societal values in the new 20-something generation in India? 
I wouldn’t know that for sure. I am not an authority on the subject. But if you think it does, I would like to thank you for what is, possibly, one of the best pieces of feedback I would have received from someone who has read my work.

Do you think there’s value to getting high?
To answer that question, I’ll quote comedian Katt Williams from one of his performances: “Just hit the blunt one time and see if it don’t change your perception of what’s important in your life.”

What did you learn from writing the book?
That novels are very difficult to write, work on, get published, and you’re not done yet. You still have to go out there and sell the goddamn thing, and convince people that if they buy your shit, they will be entertained.

How high were you when you wrote the book?
The other day, I was hanging out with a friend, and a similar question did come up and they decided to play this game with Toke: “Let’s sit with a marker and colour code parts of the book based on what we think Jugal was on when he wrote that part.” Now, that’d be a fun game.

letters@tehelka.com

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